Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Legal Fees on Housing Loans.

asked the Minister for Local Government if he is aware that apparently exorbitant legal fees are being deducted by the local authorities in County Mayo from loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts as, for example, fees of £55 4s. 8d., £56 7s and £56 12s. 3d. were deducted from loans of £1,600 and a fee of £52 5s. 4d. from a loan of £1,000; and, if so, whether he will investigate this matter and indicate what steps he proposes to take to remedy the position.

I have no information on the cases quoted nor as to what local authorities are concerned. It is the practice to accord full discretion to the local authorities in regard to the terms on which, subject to the provisions of the Acts, individual advances are to be made. The matter would, therefore, more appropriately be taken up with the local authority concerned.

Do I take it from the Minister's reply that he has no function in the matter or that no remedy lies in his hands to prevent exorbitant fees being deducted in such cases as I have quoted?

I have no power to fix these legal fees. An effort was made by my Department a couple of years ago, in consultation with the Law Society, to reach an understanding but we made no progress in that effort.

Is the Minister aware that a pretty serious practice exists, with the result that these people applying for loans are fleeced in many cases? Would he reinvestigate the matter so as to put an end to this ramp?

I am aware that the fees charged in the matter of loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts are such that we regard them as excessive. Many difficulties arise because of the manner in which legal men are paid by their employers, the local bodies. Some are paid on a taxed costs basis, some are paid a salary, some are whole-time, and so on. There is a problem there and we endeavour to meet it through contacts with the Law Society. Unfortunately we were not successful in that effort.

Why not introduce legislation to deal with that problem? That is the way to deal with it, to stop the fleecing of these poor people.

That is another matter.

Local authorities can then fix the fees?

I would say so.